Before Sedona Prince even stepped foot inside the women’s equipment facilities inside the NCAA Tournament Bubble in San Antonio, Texas, she had seen the photos Stanford University Coach Ali Kershner had posted on social media.
A pile of dumbbells laid next to a stack of yoga mats.
Then, she saw photos of the men’s equipment facilities in Indianapolis, Indiana. There were workout benches, dumbbells, every weight imaginable, and the space was far larger than the average gym.
The disparities were jawing.
“It didn’t resonate with me until I saw it,” the Oregon Ducks forward told NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt. “It was definitely like kind of just heartbreaking for us, because we worked really hard to get here. You know, COVID year’s not fun. It’s been very difficult. Our parents haven’t been able to watch us play, we haven’t had fans. You know testing every day of this entire season kind of leading up to this moment and I was just like dang, you know?”
After the NCAA came under fire for the flood of social media photos and videos showcasing the unequal amenities, Lynn Holzman, NCAA vice president of women’s basketball, said there simply wasn’t enough space to add more equipment.
Prince knew she needed to act.
The redshirt sophomore posted a TikTok video that later surfaced on Twitter with the caption: “It's 2021 and we're still fighting for bits and pieces of equality."
“I got something to show y’all. So, for the NCAA March Madness, the biggest tournament in college basketball for women … This is our weight room,” she said while pointing at a small rack of dumbbells.
“Lemme show y’all the men’s weight room,” she said while the video cut to the gym at the men’s tournament.
“Now when pictures of our weight room got released vs. the men’s, the NCAA came out with a statement saying that it wasn’t money, it was space that was the problem,” Prince added.
This isn’t the first time Prince has seen gender inequalities in sports. We’ve heard about it with U.S. Soccer and women’s soccer players earning significantly less than their male counterparts. The gender pay gap exists in the WNBA too.
But Title IX was created with the very purpose of protecting student athletes from sex-based disparate treatment, and Prince wanted to make sure the NCAA was held accountable for their actions in men and women’s weight rooms too.
“We’ve worked so hard to get here and we’ve really put in so much work, and to kind of see it just not be reciprocated on the other side is just pretty heartbreaking,” Prince explained. "Same for my teammates. All of my teammates have seen it, and just been kind of heartbroken. This is what the whole Internet sees that it’s just much different and we’re treated much differently. It’s always been a problem...
“It’s funny because everybody was mad at me because I made this video. Everyone’s like stop complaining, but the funny thing is, I just showed—I just literally like videoed it, gave facts and I was like this is the difference. Here’s one facility and here’s the other, and everyone interpreted the way they did. So that just shows how powerful it was and how much it really resonated with everyone that it’s a big deal.”
While the NCAA’s efforts are unacceptable and disrespectful, this is why it’s so important for athletes like Prince, a “little kid from Liberty Hill, Texas,” to use their platforms to power the drive and fuel change.
“It’s definitely amazing because my mom always told me growing up, like you can make a change, and it was hard to believe it,” Prince said. “And then with this TikTok platform that I have and growing it in the last year...